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Life with Lavendar in London town

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Fail Again. Fail Better

So said Samuel Beckett.

I used to have this quote on a greeting card which I pinned up near my desk at home.

It served as a reminder that, as the 1980's philosopher Billy Ocean sang,

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Oooh Oooh 

Since I escaped from Hell, I mean, left my last job, I have been extremely picky in job hunting. Two or three days a week in the film or literary sector. Nothing with too much responsibility but also with enough stimulation to prevent brain rot. Admittedly there are not many jobs out there which fit my criteria so applications have not exactly been pouring forth from me.

Since June I've had three interviews. The first one was for an arts charity based in Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. The charity's aim is to develop a programme of art events for hospital patients to assist in their recovery. The timing of my interview was ironic. I myself had been in hospital the day prior for a minor procedure involving general anaesthetic. In hindsight I probably should have said No to the interview but as they say, when opportunity knocks....

No surprises that I did not get that job. I think I was speaking English during the interview but your guess is as good as mine.

Following that there were no interesting jobs on the horizon. I started temping to keep one foot wedged in the doorway of work.

Then a deluge (actually, there were two) of part-time film jobs with medium-level responsibility flooded my inbox. I duly answered the same ten boring questions that all employers seem to ask on any job application form. A few weeks later I was asked to interview for jobs at the BFI and IntoFilm.


What is there to say about the BFI. If you live in the UK and know even a little about film, you will know the BFI. Many years ago, a much younger version of myself applied for a job with them and was rejected. Surely lightning couldn't strike twice.

IntoFilm is a film charity that does excellent working promoting access to and engagement with film right around the UK for youth aged 5-19.

Man, I sweated over the interview preparations.  I knew there would be at least one film question. I asked Facebook friend's to tell me what their favourite British films were. I reread all the film blogs I have written. I looked over my old programming material from my days working at the FTI.  Since I started rearing a child my film consumption has diminished considerably. Gone are the days when I would see up to four films a week in the cinema. Nowadays I get to the cinema maybe once a fortnight.  Which is not bad for the average person but would it be enough for the BFI cineastes'?

It wasn't.

Yesterday the BFI  emailed to say that I did not get the job. It was a kick to the guts as those doors to the BFI have been slammed twice in my face now. Then about ten minutes after that cheerful news came the rejection email from IntoFilm.


Did I perform badly in both interviews? Was I over qualified? Am I too old for the entry level positions I am applying for? Or were the interviews just a performative time wasting process for all. Was someone already lined up for the role?

Or am I just a sore loser?

On request, the BFI gave me interview feedback. They said I was a strong candidate amongst ten strong candidates. Supposedly I was one of the strongest candidate's but someone stronger got the role. The feedback made me feel like I had lost an arm wrestle with an octopus.

Failure is a very different thing at 42 than at 22. In your twenties the horizon seems endless; possibilities infinite. If you fail at 22, you wait for the next opportunity you assume is coming. At 42, failure fucking sucks. Time and energy is not on your side. You hope you are still alive when the next opportunity comes; if it comes at all. At 42, you realise not everything works out the way you thought it would.

Let me in you fuckers!
Mr Beckett urges greater failure. Greater effort. No matter the failure, Just work towards the next one. Eventually you will get there he implies.

Would you trust this man's advice?
Is there sense to bashing one's head against a brick wall a la Beckett style? In this case the impenetrable doors of the BFI?

We'll see. Watch this space.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Captain Fantastic

Viggo, aaah Veeeeeego.

Loved him in Eastern Promises. Loved him in A History of Violence. Loved him in The Road. The Two Faces of January. Good. The list goes on.  

And yes, loved him in LOTR. Who knew someone called Aragorn could be sexy?

For weeks leading up to its premiere, I saw posters for Viggo's new flick Captain Fantastic everywhere. So often did I see this poster that I started to wonder if I was hallucinating.

The Poster

Admittedly there are worse things in life to see than a shaggy Viggo kitted out in a retro red suit.  Dead rats. Nigel Farage's face. An empty Cadbury's chocolate wrapper.

The mass advertising campaign worked a treat for as soon as the film came out in my local cinema, I was bunkered down, ready to spend the afternoon with Veegs and his fake film children. I had read that the film centred around the complexities of a father trying to raise his brood of children off-grid; a return to nature existence combined with Chomsky-esqe home schooling. 

I've always been fascinated by people who choose to carve out a lifestyle different to the 'mainstream' and the challenges they face. Having known several families doing this very thing, I was curious to see how the film would depict this lifestyle and what message it would impart. And the fact that Viggo was in it certainly didn't hurt. Or am I just repeating myself?

The tone of the film was different to what I had expected. From the poster design, I had anticipated a Wes Anderson-type film with quirks and curious characters. Instead I found Captain Fantastic much more meditative and reflective. The first half was essentially a Captain Von Trapp militaristic fantasy of how to raise children in the forest naked but with no singing nun. But for all the liberal leanings of Ben Cash (Veeg's character), his approach was essentially that of a despot or fascist; the very paradigm that he was rallying against.

Wes Anderson movie poster. Similar right?

His character reminded me of certain people I have met in the past. In particular one guy called Gympie who rejected all mainstream leanings. He lived and travelled around the country on his 'Magic Bus' with his consort of female partners and various children. Shrouding his fascism under the guise of mysticism and anti consumerism, I watched him manipulate situations for his own gain. He was a Class A prat and a study in self deception.

For me the film came into its own when Cash's' tightly controlled world crashes into mainstream reality when his children realise there is more to the world than Russian literature and five am yoga drills. Mortensen's depiction of a good man grappling with the contradictions in his belief system alone, is worth seeing the film for. As he struggles with the cracks in his idealism against his love for his kids; the film shows that the lives we lead, no matter what ideas they are founded upon; are ever changing and constantly complex.

Aaaah Viggo, you did it again.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

It's (Not That) Quiet on the Western Front (II)

If Perth had a heart, then that heart is the port town of Fremantle. From the moment my Dad started working at Fremantle Hospital in 1977, Fremantle, or ‘Freo’ as the locals call it became a backdrop for my formative years.

Fremantle Port

My first memories of Fremantle are eating fish and chips on the Esplanade; a park nestled along the Freo foreshore. Cicerellos was the place to go for freshly battered cod and chips.  My parents would order at the counter whilst I peered into the vast tropical aquarium that was always my highlight during a trip to Cicerellos. Clutching our newspaper bundles, we would cross the rail overpass down into Esplanade Park. Sitting on the grass amongst the Norfolk Pines, I remember the crunchy saltiness and fresh white flakes in my mouth, with the sea breeze cooling us on a sunny Perth day.

Being a port city, Fremantle has always had an outward looking mien. Immigrants from Italy and Portugal settled in the town and contributed significantly in creating the character of Fremantle; essentially a working class immigrant community for whom family was important. These roots of Fremantle’s heritage is still very much visible today. The main road, known as the Cappuccino strip is well known for its proliferation of cafes and restaurants where you can sip and dine alfresco. Gino’s coffee shop reigns supreme on the strip having outlasted other stalwarts such as Old Papa’s and Interfoods. Across the road is Pizza Bella Roma where nightly queues form as people await the opportunity to dine on delicious oven baked pizza and pasta.

Gino's Cafe - still standing 
When I visit nowadays, I find the Cappuccino Strip greatly changed. The street that once held an Italian deli, a butchers, a burial home, a fishmongers and one of the best bookshops in Perth is now dotted with too many ice cream parlours, tacky pubs and tourist shops.  Rents are so high that many local businesses have left. Still, the reputation of the strip precedes its reality and every weekend, the tourists still come and spend their money on ice cream, coffee and trinkets.

The Cappuccino Strip

Friday, 9 September 2016

It’s (Not That) Quiet on the Western Front (1)

Many years ago in a pre - child life, I started writing about the place where I grew up which is Perth, Western Australia. I starting writing to commit to memory all the things I loved about it. I found this old piece of writing today and have decided to post it in excerpts as a homage to the Perth I knew and loved.  Perth has changed significantly in the past five years due to the mining boom. Rampant development and consumerism has affected many parts of the city which I held dear.

So in memory of the Perth I once knew:


My hometown hugs the shores of the West Australian coastline. She nestles there like a faint diamond amongst the vastness of the state. The fact that Perth is the most isolated city in the world of its size, is useful for dinner party conversation or when someone asks:

Where in Australia are you from?
Which side is that?
The west coast. The other side from Sydney and Melbourne. The side no-one visits.


It’s the most isolated city in the world.
Oh really. I didn’t know that.
Yes. It’s closer to Singapore than its own capital city.

At this point, the consideration that you are from the most isolated city in the world has entered the person’s head. The neurons in their brain come to a silent conclusion:  HICKSVILLE.

Perth is the capital city of Western Australia; the largest state in country

Coming from Perth, I’m used to this kind of geographical prejudice. My hometown doesn’t have the international status of Sydney, the unofficial capital of Australia or even Alice Springs, home of the much clambered upon Uluru. People who grow up in Perth have a love-hate relationship with this remoteness.  We dislike the isolation for it breeds cliques and a small town watchfulness. It fails to rate on the international stage despite world class beaches and the best weather in Australia. Perth could disappear tomorrow and would anyone know? But the isolation gives us space to create, develop and initiate away from other influences and trends. It is an immensely creative city with a Mediterranean outlook.


When the plane approaches Perth, my nose is pressed up against the window. If it is a daytime descent, the land below looks like an Aboriginal dot painting. If anyone were to doubt the complex physical and psychical connection that the first Australians have with their land, all you would need to do is view the land from an airplane to have those doubts diminish.

The view of Oz from an airplane 

In daylight the clarity of the sky is unlike any other place I have been. The combination of light and space and air forms a blue clearer and sharper than any other. This blue is my homecoming. If it is night, I look for the lights of the Perth skyline. Harder to spot than a vastly lit metropolis like London or Hong Kong, the Perth city lights flare against the inky darkness like a lighthouse beacon guiding the aircraft towards the landing strip. I am always impatient to get out of the plane and the airport; eager for the first few deep inhalations of West Australian air. Dry, crisp and tinged with leaves and sun. Arriving at daytime, the glare of the sun and bright blue sky hits you as you exit the building. You immediately feel as if you have been zapped intravenously with high dosage vitamins.

Breathe in. Out.

I'm back.

Horror Vacui

Oh I had so many ideas of what to write about for this next blog entry. Our trip to Iceland; our first 'family summer holiday', a.k.a what to do with a really active child 24/7 for six weeks; an abridged version to all the books I am reading/not reading; my transcendent experience at a Paul Kelly gig and many more ranty bits which are not making it on here because of the weird reality that I am busier now not working than when I was working.

This makes no sense right. After all, I was working four days a week before. How can I have less time now that I am gainfully unemployed?

Friends ask if I am enjoying my free time.

Free time, I laugh, Yeah I am enjoying it. This is it right now. Us talking.

They say that nature abhors a vacuum. Applying this principle to the increased hours in my day, I concur with 'horror vacui' as first postulated by Parmenides. My diary is living proof of this theory.

Is it a law of nature that the more time you have, the more things you do? Certainly this is something I have always been guilty of.  I am more tired too as a result. At first I blamed myself for doing too much but now I realise I am just following the laws of physics.

Horror Vacui, would be the perfect heading for my gravestone as cause of death. I am sure when the time for my eternal rest comes, it will be from over exertion.

But until then, excuse me. I have stuff I need to do.